“Let’s not just wait for things to break, especially when those things can be the lives of the people we love,” concluded Dawn Berry at the end of her presentation during the TEDxSanDiego’s 2016 event on Oct. 22 at Copley Symphony Hall.
Berry, vice president, Applied Genomics at Illumina, was referring to the power of sequencing the human genome, which in simple terms she described as a code, or instructions for life – the entire collection of one’s DNA.
“Your genome holds the promise to help predict your health,” said Berry. “Your genome is an instruction manual for you, but it’s not your destiny.”
Certain factors such as lifestyle, environment and nutrition can play a role for or against your genome, but is there a way to do better than just react to such health issues as chemo therapy resistant cancer?
Recent technology developed in San Diego allows for entire genomes – once taking 13 years and $3 billion to complete for a single genome – to be sequenced in one day at a cost of about $1,000.
“There is no question that we have improved patient care and even saved lives based on genomics,” Berry said. “We know the technology works, but we don’t know enough yet for it to be applied preventatively, proactively.”
So what’s holding science back from getting ahead of disease?
Simply put, Berry stated the existing sample size is neither large enough, nor diverse enough to be able to be applied preventatively. By engaging the community, Berry said she believes this could help to put the parts and pieces together.